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Opchat Magazine Charity PageCharity News, January to March 2019



North East Optometrist Shortlisted for National Award
Optoversity challenge now running five teams
SeeAbility and National Lottery Community Fund launch new partnership marking start of charity’s 220th birthday year.
Patients with Low Vision benefit from Optical Sector Seeing Beyond the Eyes.
Homeless charity makes urgent call for more volunteers
Two Ghanaian students will learn from world's best eye care professionals.
SeeAbility was proud to be charity partner of 100% Optical
Childhood cancer charity boss ‘amazed’ by national optician’s £600k donation milestone
Opticians’ crisis service sees 327 this Christmas
Read the archived news from Oct-Dec on Charity

North East Optometrist Shortlisted for National Award

March 2019

Stephanie Cairns, optometrist for North East charity Sight Service has been shortlisted for a prestigious industry accolade.

Sight service award

Stephanie has been shortlisted for the Low Vision Award in the Opticians Awards 2019, for her role in the provision of an integrated community-based low vision service, which is run by Sight Service on behalf of Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group.

Stephanie works within a team which provides advanced low vision assessments and provision alongside rehabilitation officers and a sensory support team, helping people of all ages and abilities who have many different causes of visual impairment. This includes; lighting and glare protection provision and advice, a wide range of standard magnifiers, app demonstrations and information, emotional support, mobility advice and reassurance.

In December 2018 the Royal National Institute of Blind People’s North East: Eye Health and Sight Loss Report estimated that there are 86,900 people in the North East living with sight loss, with 14,620 of those being registered blind or partially sighted.

Sight Service supports people who are visually impaired living in Gateshead and South Tyneside to live independent and fulfilled lives. It aims to help people who are living with or experiencing sight loss by promoting good mental health, reducing isolation, increasing personal safety, and raising awareness of eye health and the impact of sight loss. It is the only community-based, integrated low vision and rehabilitation service for people, over the age of fourteen, who have a visual impairment in the North East and Cumbria.

Stephanie has more than fifteen years’ experience as an optometrist and holds a range of qualifications including a BSc (Hons) Optometry, Postgraduate Certificate in Clinical Optometry and a College of Optometry Higher Certificate in Low Vision. Alongside her work for Sight Service, she acts as chair for the North East Optical Society and vice chair of the Northumbria, Tyne and Wear Local Optical Committee.

The awards shortlist also recognises Stephanie’s work to raise awareness of the support available via community opticians and to increase integrated working. This has included hosting presentations for, and link building with, local rehabilitation officers, habilitation officers, the regional Falls Task Group and learning disability groups. In addition, Stephanie has been involved in the training of North East professionals such as optometrists and dispensing opticians who would like to provide low vision support in practice and instrumental in keeping low vision topics on the local continued education agenda.

Stephanie said of the shortlist: “I am delighted and humbled to be nominated for this award and it would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of my team and Sight Service’s commitment to supporting those who are living with or experiencing sight loss.

“Community opticians play an important role in the provision of support to people with visual impairments and this is something I will continue to promote. I am dedicated to ensuring that help is available to those living with or experiencing sight loss and will continue my work with Sight Service to ensure low vision services are available to those in the local community who require it.”

Stephanie’s shortlist for the Low Vision Award comes as Sight Service is strengthening its strategic delivery. It has recently appointed Sarah French to the role of chief executive and earlier this year, Lin Elder-Atterton MVO took over the role of chair of the board.

Sarah French, chief executive of Sight Service, said: “It’s a privilege to join such an innovative and forward-thinking organisation. Sight Service is leading the way in community-led low vision services and I’m delighted that this unique programme is being nationally recognised. This collaborative approach between optometrists, rehabilitation and support teams enables us to provide better solutions, quicker, for people living with sight loss.

“The work Stephanie and her team deliver is invaluable to those in the local community who require low vision support. I would like to congratulate her on this award nomination, it is truly well deserved.”

Sight Service provides a range of services including vision rehabilitation, low vision support and specialist technology training. In addition, it supports several community groups and offers a range of volunteering and mentoring opportunities.

The 2019 Optician Awards ceremony, during which winners will be announced, will be held at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole on Saturday 30 March 2019. The awards cover eighteen categories, including Frame Stylist of the Year and the Low Vision Award which are new for 2019.

Sight Service is funded by NHS Newcastle Gateshead CCG, Gateshead Council, South Tyneside Council and the National Lottery Community Fund’s Reaching Communities Fund.

Image at top (Left to Right): Mike Sutton, rehabilitation manager at Sight Service and Stephanie Cairns, optometrist

Royal National Institute of Blind Peoples, North East: Eye Health and Sight Loss Report, December 2018,

Optoversity challenge now running five teams

March 2018

Optversity DublinOptoversity - an exciting challenge to test the knowledge and diagnostic skills of the UK’s young optometrists – is taking place on Saturday 23 March at Anglia Ruskin University. Open to third year optometry students, it is set to raise funds for Vision Care for Homeless People. Five teams are now set to complete – from Plymouth, City, Bradford, Anglia Ruskin and latest to enter is Dublin.

North London optometrist Karmelo Modina launched the event two years ago, as he said, “I thought it would be a great way to bring together optometry students and to help prepare them for working life in the best way possible. It is always good fun, and alongside this the students will be raising funds for Vision Care for Homeless People,” said Karmelo, who supervises students one day a week at Anglia Ruskin.

“The format includes practical OSCE exams, an ocular disease picture quiz, multiple choice questions and an optometry version of articulate. Prizes will be provided by some of the sponsors which include Cooper Vision, Essilor, Modo Eyewear and Thea Pharmaceuticals.
Jennifer O’Neill of the Dublin team, said , “We are hoping that the luck of the Irish will play in our favour! We can't wait to have fun while also raising money for Vision Care for Homeless People.”

Left to right in Image, the Dublin team are looking for sponsorship. Click on their name below to go to their charity donation page.

Daniel Laughlin
Jennifer O'Neill
Emma Louise Chaney
Gaganjote Uppal

SeeAbility and National Lottery Community Fund launch new partnership marking start of charity’s 220th birthday year.

March 2019

SeeabilityFounded in 1799 by a group of philanthropists, SeeAbility is one of the world’s oldest charities dedicated to supporting people with disabilities. The charity offers ambitious support to people with learning disabilities, autism and sight loss helping them to challenge what they expect from life, from themselves and from wider society.

SeeAbility is known for championing better eye care services for children with learning disabilities who are 28 times more likely to have serious sight problems than other children. The charity has now secured an incredible £495,000 grant from the National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK, to ensure that adults with learning disabilities and autism have the opportunity to learn about vital eye care and how to access the services they need, in their local communities.

The new programme called ‘Every Day in Focus’ will be led by Eye Care Champions including people with lived experience of learning disabilities. They will work with local groups to reach and empower 7,000 people with learning disabilities and autism and over 5,000 eye care professionals. Work will begin in The North West – including the 5 counties of Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Merseyside, Lancashire and Cumbria - and will also cover all of London’s 32 boroughs.

Lisa Hopkins, Chief Executive of SeeAbility said: “We are delighted to work with the National Lottery Community Fund, who share our values of putting people with learning disabilities in the lead to ensure communities are stronger and more inclusive. This is exactly the kind of positive impact we want to create as we mark SeeAbility's 220th birthday.”

Scott Watkin BEM, SeeAbility’s Head of Engagement said: “I have an eye condition which was thankfully picked up and treated early on. If it hadn’t, I would be a lot less independent now. Together with our Eye Care Champions who we’ll recruit thanks to this funding, I look forward to ensuring people with learning disabilities get the support they need to thrive and play their role in communities.”

James Harcourt, England Director at the National Lottery Community Fund, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, people with learning disabilities will be able to get the help they need and learn more about vital eye care. We're proud to support SeeAbility which puts people with learning disabilities at the heart of their work, investing in what matters most to them and their community.”

Across 2019, SeeAbility will be marking its 220th birthday with a series of events and by spotlighting the talents and achievements of people with learning disabilities, autism and sight loss. Their aim is to forge many more new partnerships with like-minded organisations who share their vision of making society more inclusive and welcoming for all.

Patients with Low Vision benefit from Optical Sector Seeing Beyond the Eyes.

February 2019

Seeing Beyond The EyesPatients with low vision are benefitting from an initiative developed by Visualise Training and Consultancy and funded by Thomas Pocklington Trust. Seeing Beyond the Eyes has released its impact report which highlights a huge increase in the number of optical professionals who will now refer patients with low vision to vital support services – up from only 9% to an impressive 96%.

The project benefits patients by connecting the optical and sight loss sectors and has trained over 2,200 delegates since its launch in May 2018. It aims to increase awareness of, and referrals to, local and national sight loss organisations and promote inclusivity across all eyecare services for people with, or at risk of sight loss.

Key highlights of the outcome report include raised awareness of how and where optical professionals can refer patients for support and the importance of doing so at the point of suspected diagnosis to avoid stress and anxiety. It also highlights patient feedback on how services can become more inclusive and accessible.

Seeing Beyond the Eyes is facilitated by the founder of Visualise Daniel Williams, who was named on the Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 list in 2018. Daniel is aiming to raise awareness of the difficulties faced by patients who are diagnosed with irreversible sight loss amongst the 15,000 optometrists and 6,000 dispensing opticians in the UK.
Daniel is a man on a mission with low vision working with Dispensing Opticians Peter Black and Jayshree Vasani to increase awareness of low vision support services.

Daniel has retinitis pigmentosa and developed the program in response to his own experience post-diagnosis. “At 8 years old, I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa. One of the scariest things for my mother and me was the feeling of isolation and not knowing where to go for support.
We saw countless optometrists, dispensing opticians and ophthalmologists, but at no point were we signposted or referred to support services that would have made our journey easier. The good news is that optical professionals and their teams are now able to help people to know they are not alone and there is a positive future with the right knowledge and support. We don’t know, what we don’t know and if no-one has educated us why would we”

Phil Ambler, Director of Evidence and Policy at TPT, is extremely pleased by the ongoing success of the initiative.

“We are delighted to have funded the Seeing Beyond the Eyes project and that it is helping to raise awareness among eye health professionals of the issues faced by blind and partially sighted people both in the clinic and beyond. It is important that services are accessible, and that people get the right services at the right time as part of their sight loss journey. Dan Williams and his team have done great work in bringing this message to a wider audience.”

The report statistics show the project has made a huge impact and is achieving its overall aims but the 2,200 delegates trained so far only represents 9% of the UK optical workforce so there is still much to be done but given the excellent project results since the May 2018 launch, the team is confident this can be achieved.

You can read the full outcome report here

Download a free copy of the Seeing Beyond the Eyes resource pack here

Homeless charity makes urgent call for more volunteers

February 2019

VCHP Volunteers wanted
Volunteer optometrists, dispensing opticians and team leaders are urgently needed by Vision Care for Homeless centres around the country.

The team leaders – which requires about ten hours of administrative volunteering a month – are particularly interesting roles for anyone who would like to help to ensure that the regional centres are self-governing and self-funding. “It is a great opportunity for someone who is well used to dealing with the administrative side of running a practice. The people filling the roles might also have some thoughts on raising funds in their local community. It is a chance for someone who really wants to make a difference, and the team leaders can tailor volunteering to suit their hours,” said Georgia Hannen, Manager of VCHP Volunteer Operations.

Brighton-based optometrists and Dispensing Opticians can work any morning of the week; Birmingham is in need of Dispensing Opticians on Monday mornings; Exeter needs support with the professional team on Monday and Tuesdays; Leeds needs an optometrist on a Monday from 11.30am;

In London volunteers are needed to work at the home of the charity – the Crisis centre on Monday afternoons, and to support the mobile clinic on Monday mornings which is a role out in the community.

“We have tremendous support from the optical community and particularly from the suppliers who do a great job in helping us with frames, lenses and glazing. Thanks to the industry support our test rooms are well kitted out and so it is a very rewarding role to fill, where volunteers can make a direct impact on the lives of local homeless people,” added Georgia.

Two Ghanaian students will learn from world's best eye care professionals.

Januray 2019

Nutifafa Esther Senanu
Two students from Ghana are preparing to be flown more than 7,000 miles to Manchester for a prestigious contact lens conference after winning travel grants.

The funding means Nutifafa Esther Senanu (left) from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, and Ebenezer Zaabaar from the University of Cape Coast, will be able to attend the 2019 British Contact Lens Association (BCLA) Clinical Conference and Exhibition.

The BCLA will provide a complimentary full delegate package for both students for the event while the travel grant was awarded by not-for-profit organisation The Optical Foundation, whose mission is to make eye care accessible for all in Ghana, especially children.

Nutifafa and Ebeneezer were chosen out of 20 candidates who applied for The Optical Foundation 2019 Frans Oosterhof Travel Grant.

Carolina Kunnen of the Optical Foundation, said: “We had always intended to allocate one travel grant to the top performing male and another to the top performing female and were thrilled that the judge's scoring highlighted these two candidates as the top performing candidates.

“We are also pleased that one candidate was successful from Kumasi and one from Cape Coast, with very little separating the two applicants.”

Ebenezer Nutifafa and Ebeneezer (right) will be able to absorb cutting edge learning from BCLA Conference delegates, and take it back to Ghana to inspire fellow students and eye care professionals.

They will hear about the latest innovation and clinical insight, and take part in hands-on workshops showcasing the most up-to-the-minute techniques.

Both students will also be able to experience a dedicated exhibition from the world’s leading contact lens and ocular surface management manufacturers and suppliers.

BCLA chief executive Chery Donnelly said: “The two Ghanaian students will now have an incredible opportunity to hear from our line-up of stellar speakers from across the world. It truly is an international conference and we look forward to welcoming both Nutifafa and Ebeneezer to Manchester. It will be the trip of a lifetime.”

The three-day Clinical Conference and Exhibition, due to take place from May 30 to June 1, is returning to Manchester, with the city set to play host to one of the profession’s most eagerly anticipated international conferences – featuring a new hashtag for 2019 of #AlwaysLearning.

This grant selection process involved the assistance of The Optical Foundation Advisory Committee consisting of Eric Papas, Fayiz Mahgoub, Ayeswarya Ravikumar, Bianca van Leeuwen, and Thomas Stokkermans.

CooperVision UK is funding the students airfares, transport and hotel accommodation.

SeeAbility was proud to be charity partner of 100% Optical

January 2019

To kick off their 220th anniversary year, SeeAbility were proud to be official charity partner of 100% Optical, the largest optical event in the UK which will took place on 12–14 January at London ExCel.

The partnership came at an exciting time, as the newly published Long Term NHS plan commits to investing and working with partners to ensure children with learning disabilities and autism have their eyesight needs met.

SeeAbility is the only UK charity dedicating to addressing this situation.

Lisa Hopkins, SeeAbility’s CEO said:

“Our research clearly shows that thousands of children with learning disabilities are not getting the basic eye care they need and which they have a right to access.

" Many are living life in a total blur, unable to see clearly for want of a simple pair of glasses.
"We’re delighted with the pledge to support the eye care of children in special schools and we look forward to working in partnership with individuals and companies across the eye care sector to deliver this and other exciting programmes.”

SeeAbility’s work empowers people with learning disabilities to manage their eye health by providing educational training sessions to help people understand how to look after their eyes and what happens at an eye test.

Thanks to partners like 100% Optical, SeeAbility is able to create opportunities for optical professionals to increase and improve accessibility within the sector.

At this year’s show, SeeAbility gave expert advice on how to make optical practices accessible and how best to support patients with learning disabilities. At their stand, attendees learnt more about the charity’s searchable database of accessible optometrists, pick up helpful guides and accessible resources for patients

It’s all part of SeeAbility’s mission to transform eye care for the people who need it most.

Childhood cancer charity boss ‘amazed’ by national optician’s £600k donation milestone

January 2019

Funding boost for cancer charity as optical retailer presents 2018 donation

CHECT CharityA charity supporting families through the turmoil of an eye cancer diagnosis has paid tribute to Vision Express for eight years of fundraising efforts, which have raised a much-needed £600,000 to help survivors of a rare condition called retinoblastoma (Rb).

The Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) and Vision Express first joined forces in 2010. Over eight years their award-winning partnership has raised awareness of the aggressive eye cancer, affecting babies and under 5s, and its symptoms.

Alongside educational initiatives to urge parents to prioritise eye tests, young ambassadors living with the condition have visited Vision Express stores across the UK as VIPs to open new stores. Fundraising challenges have included an endurance cycling event called Ride4Sight, skydives, marathons, raffles and an annual Christmas quiz.

The charity’s chief executive, Patrick Tonks,(pic above) paid tribute to the optician, saying: “I’ve worked for the charity for over three years and I still can’t truly comprehend the impact a diagnosis of Rb has on families with a baby or very young child. The cancer currently has a 98% survival rate; however, the treatment process can be very challenging – about half of the children have an eye removed to stop the cancer from spreading, which has long term implications for them and their families.

“I was amazed when I first found out the total amount raised. We really wouldn’t have been able to help so many children and families over the last eight years without Vision Express’ support - fewer people would be aware of the signs and symptoms of Rb and so it would be more difficult for some people to get an early diagnosis. From everyone at CHECT and from all the families we work with, a massive thank you goes to Vision Express.”

CHECT kicked off the New Year with with a cheque for £46,000 presented to the team by Vision Express, representing the donations pledged in the past 12 months

Commenting on the partnership, Dan McGhee, director of professional services at Vision Express, said; “Children’s sight can be tested at any age, and it’s recommended that they see an optometrist before they start school and begin learning to read. With eyes being fully developed between the age of eight and ten years old, many sight issues that have gone undetected by that time are largely irreversible. It’s important to remind parents that all children under the age of 16, or under 19 and in full-time education, are entitled to a free eye test and a contribution towards glasses or lenses on the NHS.”

“Our relationship with CHECT is extremely special to us. Vision Express was the first optician in the UK to roll out a protocol to ensure a quick and effective referral if Rb is suspected. We know how important is for children affected to get specialist care without delay. Thanks to our education programme and fundraising, we’re proud to know we make a difference to families who face such a devastating diagnosis.”

To help support CHECT visit: or

Opticians’ crisis service sees 327 this Christmas

January 2019

Crisis at ChristmasVolunteer opticians from Vision Care for Homeless People saw 327 patients at London’s Crisis clinics this Christmas. Hundreds of pairs of glasses were dispensed to people living on the streets with uncorrected vision which leaves them very vulnerable. Twenty three people were referred to hospital for ophthalmic treatment or further investigations.

Matthew, 28, visited the Vision Care for Homeless People clinic at Paddington Green and was diagnosed as being -15.00 dioptres. He lost his specs two weeks before and described “the world as being for the brave without glasses”.

Frequently subjected to violence, the homeless face barriers to accessing eyecare and many rely on the year-round services of the charity which now has eight regional UK centres.

The goodwill of the optical profession and supply chain ensured that clinics ran across London during the festive week.

Maya Patel, an optometrist from Harrow, volunteering for the third successive year, explained –
“I don’t feel that it is Christmas if I am not here. Our patients make us feel very happy because they appreciate what we do so very much. We were scheduled to run 30 clinics during the week but because of the demand we have run many more.

“Our clinics are equipped with all the latest diagnostic technology – kindly loaned by optical suppliers – and our volunteers have come from all over the UK.”
Bana Garib, the Eye Clinic Service Organiser, said that more than 60 volunteers had turned up to run the service, including a number of ophthalmologists from Moorfields.

“Some of our patients speak movingly about how they have not been treated with so much decency and respect for many years. Alarmingly, we have picked up some pathology which has seen the patients referred to hospital. We have certainly seen a younger demographic this year. Glasses get broken regularly by people sleeping on buses and through street violence.”

The Vision Care for Homeless People Clinics in the UK will have seen nearly 2,000 patients during 2018 and grateful thanks for support goes to: the volunteers and optical supply companies - Alcator, Bondeye, Brulimar, Essilor, Hilton Optical, Kent Optic, Lenstec, Mainline, Mid-Optic, Optoplast, Shamir, Specsavers, Three-Sixty and Topcon.

Picture shows the volunteer team at Paddington Green. Also (left), Maya Patel and (right) Bana Garib.

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